Hands-On Health: The Science Behind Massage and Its Healing Effects

Swedish Massage


Life is full of stress! As we navigate through life, we deal with stressful situations that cause our muscles to tighten and stress levels to rise. The demands of work, family, and social obligations can leave you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. But did you know that massage can be a powerful form of self-care and a way to boost your mental and physical health naturally?

It’s true- massage is good for you in more ways than you might imagine. From reducing stress and anxiety to improving circulation and mobility, science shows massage has documented health benefits. You might already know how massage soothes your body and mind. If you’ve ever felt your muscles relax in response to massage, you know that it helps your body unwind.  But let’s not overlook the many other health benefits that regular massage can offer.

Whether you have a specific injury or chronic pain condition or simply want to improve your well-being, massage is worth a closer look. Let’s look at some of the health benefits of massage for your health and well-being.

Massage Helps Ease Chronic Pain

Chronic pain comes in many forms – muscle or tendon injury, lower back strains, and achy knees from arthritis, but they all have something in common. Massage helps manage them. The power of massage is that it helps ease the muscle tension and tightness that contributes to many sources of pain, from a sore back to a tight neck or shoulders. But how does massage work its magic?

A soothing massage stimulates the release of endorphins (based on some research) and also affects brain chemicals like serotonin, which affect how we perceive pain. One study found that massage boosted serotonin levels in the urine while boosting mood. A relaxing massage also relaxes tight muscles, tendons, and joints, which can worsen aches and pains.

It Can Help You Sleep Better

Massage helps your muscles relax. It’s not hard to see how relaxed muscles can help your body drift off to sleep faster and improve sleep quality.  A study on back pain published in the International Journal of Neuroscience and discussed in Sleep Review Magazine found that massage therapy does more than relieve aches and pains, including back pain. It also upgrades sleep quality, so you get the benefits of a better night’s sleep. Some types of massage are more beneficial than others. For example, the gentle kneading of Swedish massage techniques are ideal for relaxing your body and bringing about restful sleep.

Massage Is Heart Healthy Too

Massage helps relieve stress and calm your sympathetic (flight or fight) nervous system. When you’re stressed and anxious, your adrenal glands produce cortisol and norepinephrine, hormones that increase blood pressure and cause your heart to beat rapidly.

Some (but not all) studies show that massage therapy lowers cortisol. That’s important! When cortisol is too high, it can cause a rise in blood pressure and blood sugar and negatively affect your immune system. Massage is a way to quiet your body’s stress response without medications. That’s why massage therapy is becoming more popular as a medical treatment for certain conditions.

Massage also increases circulation and oxygen delivery to tissues due to the way it dilates blood vessels. Certain massage techniques, like Swedish massage with its long, slow strokes, are especially beneficial for boosting circulation. This form of meditation is recognized for its gentle approach to manipulating muscles, tendons, and ligaments and boosting circulation.

It May Benefit Anxiety

According to Psychology Today, massage has a track record for easing anxiety, especially situational anxiety, like the stress people feel related to work or taking a test. Massaging muscles has effects on the brain too. There’s some evidence that massage therapy boosts “happy” chemicals, like endorphins, that help with anxiety. Plus, it eases muscle tension, which helps with stress management. And who doesn’t feel more relaxed after a soothing massage?

Massage Improves Flexibility and Joint Stiffness

Do you suffer from achy joints or tight muscles? If so, regular massage can help ease your discomfort and provide benefits. Massage therapy increases flexibility and joint range of motion while reducing muscle soreness and stiffness. With regular massage therapy sessions, you can look forward to more relaxed and pliable muscles, so you enjoy activities with less pain and tightness.

Massage Promotes Mental Wellness Too

Massage is like a spa session for your mind too. If you do vigorous workouts, relieving muscle tension afterward with massage will help your body recover and your mind relax. It’s an underrated form of self-care. Whether you’re an athlete looking to improve performance, an office worker dealing with tension in your body, trying to ease chronic pain, or trying to relax, regular massage can help you do that. A soothing massage after a strenuous workout is the treat your body deserves.


Now you know more about the power of touch and the amazing role massage therapy plays in health and well-being. It’s a strategy for easing muscle tension and pain. Regular massage will also help you manage stress and boost your well-being. That’s important, as stress plays a role in aging too. So, whether you’re doing it for relaxation and self-care or to get relief from achy muscles, explore the world of massage and discover what it can do for you. You can even make massage part of your regular self-care routine and reap the rewards.


  • Chronic Pain. (2023). Retrieved 11 February 2023, from physio.co.uk/treatments/massage/when-can-massage-help/chronic-pain.php
  • Therapeutic massage for pain relief. (2023). Retrieved 11 February 2023, from health.harvard.edu/alternative-and-integrative-health/therapeutic-massage-for-pain-relief
  • Massage Therapy for a Better Night’s Sleep. (2023). Retrieved 11 February 2023, from //sleepreviewmag.com/sleep-health/prevailing-attitudes/massage-therapy-sleep/
  • Decreased Cortisol. (2023). Retrieved 11 February 2023, from physio.co.uk/treatments/massage/physiological-effects-of-massage/hormonal-effects/decreased-cortisol.php
  • “Massage Therapy for Anxiety and Stress | Psychology Today.” 19 Oct. 2018, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/integrative-mental-health-care/201810/massage-therapy-anxiety-and-stress.
  • “Effect Endorphin Massage on Anxiety Labor Levels of First Stage – The JNP.” 29 Apr. 2022, https://thejnp.org/index.php/jnp/article/view/219.
  • “Cortisol decreases and serotonin increases following massage therapy”. Www.Researchgate.Net, 2023, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/7601376_Cortisol_decreases_and_serotonin_increases_following_massage_therapy. Accessed 2 Aug 2023.
  • Kaada B, Torsteinbø O. Increase of plasma beta-endorphins in connective tissue massage. Gen Pharmacol. 1989;20(4):487-9. doi: 10.1016/0306-3623(89)90200-0. PMID: 2526775.

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